“I demand that all the arms of Lawrence be given up, or we will bombard the town”

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Sorry for the tardy post, Gentle Readers. I scheduled it incorrectly.

Samuel Jones, process in hand, posse at his back, and fresh off getting shot the last time he came to Lawrence, had probably gave more than a little thought to revenge on May 21, 1856. W.P. Fain had come, made arrests, and gone. Jones still had his pretense to attend to and meant to see himself revenged on Lawrence. He inherited Marshal Donaldson’s posse and rode into town with about twenty of them, arriving about three in the afternoon. Jones made for the Free State Hotel and there called out Samuel Pomeroy.

William Phillips recounts their conversation:

Pomeroy came out and shook hands with him. [Jones.]

“Gen. Pomeroy,” said Jones, “I recognize you as one of the leading citizens here, and as one who can act for the people of Lawrence. I demand that all the arms of Lawrence be given up, or we will bombard the town.” Jones here took out his watch, and continued: “I give you five minutes to decide on this proposition, and half an hour to stack the arms in the streets.”

Jones had pulled this ultimatum off before, giving the judges of election five minutes to vacate, let anyone who offered vote without swearing that they lived in Kansas, or die at the hands of his mob. Pomeroy, like the judges then, asked more time. The year since the legislative elections and his own shooting must have hardened Jones; he refused to grant even the additional minute he had before. Pomeroy went into the hotel and discussed the issue with the committee of safety, for what little they had to discuss:

Jones, with an army at his back, thirsting for blood and plunder; the committee, who had provided no means of defence, and who had only a handful of men in Lawrence, who, if they attempted to resist, would merely be butchered, unless the invaders were cowards!

An answer came back before the Sheriff called down a bombardment. Lawrence would surrender her cannons, but the rifles and other arms belonged to the men who held them. The committee had no authority to demand their surrender. Jones would have to go person to person and ask each one.

The memorial that Lawrence sent off to Franklin Pierce tells things a little differently, with some portion of the rifles accepted as community property and so surrendered while others, still private property, remained with their owners. The memorialists, writing for a hostile audience in the White House, stress their submission as much as Phillips excoriates it. For Jones to just take the cannons and let go the rifles, which loomed large in proslavery imaginations, seems improbable. Phillips does refer to some rifles taken up later, but not as part of a general surrender. He may have the same arms in mind as the memorialists, each writer slanting the facts to suit their present audience. For Phillips, righteous Kansas led by cowards in the absence of the usual heroes cave without a fight. Antislavery Americans rally to their defense. For the memorialists, submitting to the law and doing all their enemies asked might move a hostile president to take a softer line against them. Either version could be true; both agree that Lawrence lost its cannons:

The artillery in question consisted of the twelve-pound brass howitzer, brought into Lawrence so gallantly during the Wakarusa war, and some four other small brass breech-loading cannon, carrying a pound ball.

Phillips describes the four smaller field pieces as “nearly useless” but doesn’t miss the chance to go after the Committee for giving them up. He informs the reader that Lawrence had buried all the cannons beneath a house, where no one would think to look. Pomeroy and Lieutenant Governor Roberts thus gave them up gratuitously.

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The Return of Samuel Jones

 

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Dine and dash aside, W.P. Fain had come and gone from Lawrence. Two members of the committee of safety, Topliff and Perry, had their house burgled while they aided him with making his arrest. But no one had died yet that day. The Free State Hotel still stood. The printing presses remained untroubled. If the day kept on like this, then the second campaign against Lawrence might suffer only a single death in excess of the one that the first campaign had seen. Robert S. Kelley would go home cruelly disappointed yet again.

Colonel Topliff carried yet another letter off to I.B. Donaldson, in command of the hostile force, pleading for the security of Lawrence and repeating all the town’s capitulations. If nothing else, Donaldson now had his men. The Marshal could declare victory and go home. Up on Mount Oread, where Fain took his prisoners, some speech making went on. The deputy himself took to the stump and said, according to William Phillips, that he had no further use for his posse

but that Sheriff Jones had some processes to serve, and that they would hold themselves in readiness to go with him.

In the weeks since his shooting, Jones had recovered enough to sit a horse and make himself a menace again. Phillips takes a paragraph to mock Jones’ injury, noting correctly that the proslavery press declared him murdered. The crowd greeted the sheriff “with enthusiastic cheering.” Lawrence had not gotten clear of trouble after all.

Phillips, writing a few months later, castigates the “Safety Valve” for their capitulations. His condemnation goes on for better than a page about their cowardice, their surrender to territorial authority, and all the rest. This, he deemed, worthy of apology on account of “their extreme peril” but impossible to justify. Even if one could muster a justification, he then insisted that the people would never have supported such a ruinous course. To prove the point, he accuses the committee of fraud:

It is proper to state that several of those men whose names are attached to the document declare that it had not their assent. Messrs. Allen, Babcock, Mallory, and Grover, repudiate, and declare they did not sign it; some of these admitting that they signed a paper that forenoon, but know of no part of such a document sustaining or submitting to the territorial laws. I have been informed that Dr. Prentiss was not present when it was drafted.

If Phillips and his informants told the truth, rather than fixing their reputations after the fact, then only Samuel Pomeroy and W.Y. Roberts endorsed Lawrence’s last appeal. It would not stop Samuel Jones. He may have had process to serve, but he surely wanted revenge and had previously taken any pretext to move against Lawrence. Jones had threatened the lives of antislavery Kansans all the way back to the legislative elections more than a year ago. Even if a letter could save Lawrence from I.B. Donaldson, one would not sway Sheriff Jones.

“Several hundred dollars in money, a gold watch, and other property”

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

 

W.P. Fain came into Lawrence on May 22, 1856, to make the arrests that his boss, US Marshal I.B. Donaldson, had feared to attempt. He had two posses on hand that day, one of about ten men that he took into the town and augmented with locals and another of five to eight hundred proslavery militants who occupied the heights above. As on his previous visit, Fain had no trouble at all moving openly about Lawrence. Instead, he and his allies offered up their version of bad behavior. Fain and his posse dined at the Free State Hotel, then left without paying. While in Lawrence for some hours, they arrested all of two men.

Meanwhile, the larger posse under Donaldson’s command remained on Mount Oread with their cannons. That many proslavery men so near to a hated center of antislavery activity could hardly stand idle long. According to William Phillips,

While these arrests were making, and while the posse he had raised in Lawrence was under his orders and retained by him, two of the number, Mr. Perry and Col. Topliff, were robbed by the posse on the hill. They lived in a house on the side of Mt. Oread, near which the part of the posse on the hill were stationed. During the time they were waiting for Fain to go through his legal maneuver, they busied themselves in breaking into a few houses in the suburbs, and, amongst other performances, robbed these gentlemen of several hundred dollars in money, a gold watch, and other property.

Phillips would have us know that only some of the posse did that, but it sounds like they came off with quite the haul. He probably means to imply that Fain’s summons kept Topliff and Perry from their home and thus facilitated the burglary. It might have worked out that way, but Phillips doesn’t tell us if the two men would have remained in their home once the proslavery force arrived or gone somewhere clear of it. It seems that Fain found them in Lawrence proper and if he had done something so obvious as to call them from their homes on his way into town, I can’t believe Phillips would have neglected the chance to mention it.

According to the Lawrence memorialists, who included Perry, the committee of safety had entrusted Topliff with another missive for Marshal Donaldson. When Fain and his posse left town, Topliff went with them to deliver it. The committee repeated their submission to federal authority and request for the protection of the government.

For the private property already taken by your posse we ask indemnification, and what remains to us and our citizens we throw upon you for protection, trusting that under the flag of our Union and within the folds of the Constitution we may obtain safety.

Fain’s dine and dash operation can’t have won him any friends, but he had come, made his arrests, and went without incident. He promised that the Free State Hotel would go unmolested. Maybe it could all work out and Donaldson would set aside his posse just as the proslavery leaders had sent their men home from Lawrence before. If it had happened once, it could happen again.